Artist, musician, poet Steve Slimm has conquered most creative expressions, but is now known for his landscape paintings. Having expressed in this medium for over 30 years, he has been recommended in art foundation studies since 2009. Dismissing formal schooling at 16 in favour of self-education, Steve embarked on various studies, including art; and at 60 he now enjoys the assuredness of autonomous experience. Steve’s thrill is improvising music, dancing, and seeing through the perceptual illusions of life. His art concerns self-reflection and the mystery of earth and its inhabitants. Aesthetica spoke to Steve to find out more.
A: Firstly, where do you draw your inspiration from in your artwork?
SS: I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t paint, or draw. It was mainly birds in the early days. It became landscape when I got serious in my late teens. Since then it’s been pretty well landscape all the way – although I’m not quite sure why. Mostly Cornwall, where I live. You would think in over 30 years an artist would explore other subject matter – but seemingly not in my case.
A: You are a self-taught artist, what inspired you to turn to painting in the first place?
SS: When I was 17 I got involved with local art classes under John Miller; landscape watercolour painting. I had such fun, and he was so encouraging, I just wanted to continue. And then around the age of 23 I met an artist who was making a living by his art in St. Ives – and I was hooked! I began placing work in galleries, and they sold it.
A: When you started were there any specific artists that you felt drawn to, when conveying your own artistic expression?
SS: I think one look at my work and you’d guess the main influence – it was indeed the inimitable JWM Turner. A decade of pouring over images in books – then the wow-factor when I finally got to see them larger than life in the flesh! From there, I moved onto Monet, Van Gogh, and Rothko – aside from good old English landscape painter Edward Seago.
A: Can you remember your first painting?
SS: The first I remember when I began seriously was a watercolour of two rats in a cave. When I showed John, he said ‘Steve – you’ve had a vision!’ Well if John said that, then it must be true! So rather than remaining in the dark, I decide to take the vision out into the world. Rats eventually emerged as studio pets in the 90s, but caves became open landscapes, and darkness juxtaposed light – and all the flux between.
A: Back to your recent works, you focus largely on the complexities of the land, can you expand on this further? What made you want to explore this theme in your work?
SS: With me, its not really a case of wanting to do anything specific – it’s just a drive to continue the organic process. It’s a kind of alchemy I suppose. Only in retrospect I begin to see where it all comes from. ‘I and the land are one’ is central to the work, I’m sure. And ‘the one’ is complex beyond imagination.
A: There is a nostalgic element to your figurative works. Would you say ‘memory’ or ‘the familiar’ are elements that you look to explore?
SS: Not really. The familiarity is merely a hook to hang things on. I think the work echoes continuity – of the mystery of land, of humanity, and of our inextricable connection to the earth. And yes – memory – forgotten race memories of myth and legend. Nostalgic elements are tending to disappear these days.
A: You work in both an abstract and figurative style. Is there a particular style you prefer?
SS: My new work is now successfully fusing the abstract with the figurative. I’m really excited about this. I feel less inhibited by market considerations, and any process of thought is superseded by an organic urge to just apply paint and run it wherever it wants to go. It’s both profound and fun at the same time.
A: And lastly, what can we expect to see from you in the near future?
SS: I’m doing Parallax art-fair this February. And, wait for it . . . this summer I got really turned on watching documentaries about the Manchester moors murders. My new work was initially inspired by this strange extension of the human connection with land. I’m proposing a show entitled: Mystery of the Moors – Murder and Atonement. Don’t know where yet – but controversial I’m sure!
See Steve’s artwork in the current issue of Aesthetica out now www.aestheticamagazine.com/shop
1. Bursting at the Seams, oil on canvas, 120x150cm. Courtesy Steve Slimm
2. The Upward Drift, oil on canvas,120x150cm. Courtesy Steve Slimm